Education

Do students who take only two or three courses at once have a better chance to succeed than those who have to pay attention to five at a time?

St. Louis Community College plans to use a pilot program this fall to try to find out.

The program will use a so-called compressed schedule, formally known as 7-one-7, where students at its south county education center will be able to take courses that last half as long as the traditional semester courses, but meet in longer sessions to amount to the same total class time.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio

The high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high in America of 81 percent, and in Missouri it climbed to 85.7 percent during the 2013-14 school year. As more students earned high school diplomas, the gap between graduation rates for white and minority students also began to narrow, both nationally and in Missouri.

Even though the school transfer issue aroused passionate debate last year, the issue still isn't resolved.
Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

JEFFERSON CITY -- Going along with a recent court decision, the Missouri state board of education voted Tuesday to classify the Normandy Schools Collaborative as unaccredited, but it also praised progress the troubled district has made toward greater academic achievement.

Cornell University political science professor and author Suzanne Mettler talks to 'St. Louis on the Air' host Don Marsh on March 16, 2015, at St. Louis Public Radio in St. Louis.
Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

Millions of students are enrolled in college, but graduation rates are uneven. Why? Author Suzanne Mettler says political squabbling is to blame.

Mettler, a political science professor at Cornell University, has written a book that lays out the problem and its solution: “Degrees of Inequality: The Demise of Opportunity in Higher Education and How to Restore the American Dream.”

Normandy parents and community members discuss an update on Normandy Schools Saturday March, 14, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Editor's note: HB 42 in its current form has been amended to reduce tuition using a formula instead of capping it at 70 percent of the receiving district's tuition. On March 18, the Senate Education Committee approved the bill for consideration by the full Senate. 

With looming budget concerns and student transfer bills on the fast-track to becoming law, St. Louis nonprofit Beyond Housing held a call to action for Normandy schools on Saturday.

The Normandy school district board listens to public comment at Thursday night's meeting
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

The last time the board that oversees the Normandy Schools Collaborative held an open forum, Charles Pearson asked the crowd whether this year was going better than last – and was met with an overwhelmingly negative response.

Even though the school transfer issue aroused passionate debate last year, the issue still isn't resolved.
Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

As Normandy schools begin searching for a new superintendent, residents say they want a strong, experienced leader who can steer the district through tough times and stand up to state education officials who are often seen as an enemy, not an ally.

To add to the district’s turmoil, the principals of Normandy Middle School and Washington elementary school have submitted their resignations, leaving two more key positions to be filled at a time when many qualified educators already have jobs lined up for the coming school year.

St. Louis Public Schools

  

(Updated at 9 p.m., 3/10/15)

St. Louis Public Schools is reconsidering its discipline policy following a report from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA that found the district suspended roughly 29 percent of African-American grade school students at least once during the 2011-12 school year.

File photo

Missouri education officials are agreeing with a St. Louis County judge that the Normandy school district should be unaccredited, but that doesn’t mean they accept the judge’s ruling.

Circuit Judge Michael Burton ruled in February that an earlier decision by the Missouri state board of education that classified Normandy as accredited was improperly arrived at and that Normandy – which had the worst scores in the state on last year’s annual evaluation – should be unaccredited.

Jeff Pittman
Provided

St. Louis Community College has named Jeff Pittman, an education official in Indiana, as the new chancellor of its four-campus system, effective July 1.

Pittman, who turns 58 this week, is currently statewide vice president of corporate college services and online education at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. He was one of four finalists for the job, including Rod Nunn, the interim president of the college’s Forest Park campus.

SEMO website

Carlos Vargas-Aburto, currently acting president of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, will become the 18th president of Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau on July 1.

Vargas, who will succeed the retiring Kenneth Dobbins, was chosen following a wide-ranging search. One of the four finalists for the job was Benjamin Ola Akande, head of the business school at Webster University.

File photo

Moving on fast parallel tracks, with the assistance from Gov. Jay Nixon’s office that has absent in the past, the Missouri House and Senate have advanced legislation designed to change provisions of the state’s student transfer law.

Flickr

Missouri suspends African-American grade school students at a higher rate than any other state in the country.  This was a key finding in a national report issued last week by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA.  But troubled districts have been making some progress.

Archbishop Robert Carlson ceremonially breaks ground on the new St. Margaret of Scotland school building on Sunday, March 1, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Margaret of Scotland School didn’t set out to build the first new Catholic parish school building in St. Louis in 50 years. It just ran out of classrooms.

“We’re so crowded right now I always say don’t try and stretch because there’s not room,” St. Margaret Principal Juliann DePalma Hesed said. “Every corner of our building is used. Our cafeteria is our cafeteria but it is used eight different times (a week) for classes that don’t have a classroom.”  

According to Hesed, the school began seeing growth in the early 2000s after decades of serving 230 - 260 students.

Field of students at a graduation
j.o.h.n. walker | Flickr

St. Louis has been selected by a national education organization for aid increasing the number of adults with college degrees in the region.

Four finalists have been chosen in the search for the next chancellor of the St. Louis Community College system.

The school said Friday that the four will appear in public forums next week, so students, staff and members of the community can meet them and ask questions. The forums will be held at the school’s four campuses – Florissant Valley, Forest Park, Meramec and Wildwood – as well as at its administrative center downtown.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture

The Normandy Schools Collaborative has hired a Chicago-area search firm to help find a new superintendent, but that person may not have an education background.

The district’s governing board voted Thursday night to hire ProAct Search for $25,000, with the goal of having a new superintendent in place by July 1. The district’s new leader would replace Ty McNichols, who resigned last month; Charles Pearson, who had been head of the appointed governing board, is serving as interim superintendent.

Kurt Schaefer 2014 mo senator
Official photo

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said his bill restricting university appointments is meant to prevent potential conflicts of interest the public might see as unethical. The Senate gave first-round approval Wednesday to the bill, which bars the University of Missouri System's Board of Curators from appointing the governor who named them to the board as president.

Margie Vandeven, Missouri commissioner of elementary and secondary education, visits with students in Warren County.
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Margie Vandeven has been Missouri’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education for less than two months, but she’s hardly a newcomer to the state’s schools.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Two bills to address Missouri's student transfer law won approval late Tuesday — one in each chamber of the legislature. Both would require accreditation of individual schools rather than whole districts and would set new transfer guidelines to prevent overcrowding.

Dan Younger with students at the University of Missouri-St. Louis
Katelyn Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Picture this:

He’s six-foot-six, with thick-rimmed glasses and a gray ponytail, dressed in dark clothes all the way down to his black Converse tennis shoes, accentuated by a flash of red from his pocket handkerchief.

Dan Younger acknowledges he’s an easy guy to caricature, and that’s pretty fitting because he teaches students at the University of Missouri-St. Louis the undying art of cartooning.

(via St. Louis Public Schools)

(Updated Fri., Feb. 20) Angel Matthews decided to leave the Riverview Gardens School District after her cousin, who graduated from the district’s high school, had trouble enrolling in college.

“She was told her diploma didn’t mean anything because it wasn’t accredited,” Mathews said. “So she had to get her GED to go to the school she wanted to go to. I decided I’d rather go to an accredited school and take advantage of the opportunities they have.”

Stephanie Zimmerman

(Updated 3:09 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19)

On Thursday, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that it was changing the deadline for Normandy students to apply for transfer to April 1.

"In light of the court ruling on Normandy’s accreditation coming after the Feb. 1 deadline to transfer," DESE said in a statement, "the department is updating its student transfer guidelines.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time, two St. Louis city schools -- Nottingham Community Access Job Training High School and Busch Middle School of Character – have earned the label “Missouri School of Character.”  A total of 11 St. Louis area schools received the designation this year.      

In the St. Louis Public Schools, the designation comes after staff at the two schools spent years proving that their focus on students' character improved academic achievement, student behavior and created a school environment that championed learning.

Margie Vandeven
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Missouri's top educator says the state may have to take emergency action in the wake of a circuit judge's ruling last week that declared the Normandy schools to be unaccredited.

In a meeting of the state board of education on Tuesday, Margie Vandeven, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said the board will consider calling an emergency meeting in the next month if the circuit judge’s ruling forces them to make any decisions on the district and its future.

Maurice Quiroga of PNC Bank believes the first five years of a child's life are critical in long-term development.
PNC Bank

Early childhood programs have become a focus for those trying to improve the educational and social development of preschoolers. Finding what works has also been a key component in the attempts to lessen the achievement gap and other challenges some students in underserved communities experience later in life.

Students talk about racial issues during a panel discussion at Ritenour High School on Feb. 25, 2015.
Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated 2:55 p.m., Wed., Feb. 25)

Students from across the St. Louis area regrouped this morning as a follow-up to a first of its kind race summit last month.  

At the initial event, students voted on what they thought was the best solution to bridge racial divides in the St. Louis area. The winning idea was to create a sister-school program. Students from matched schools would temporarily "exchange" schools as a way to build relationships and understanding.   

Charles Pearson, seated, talks with Superintendent Ty McNichols.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Former Normandy school Superintendent Ty McNichols, who resigned last month, will continue earning the balance of his $180,000 annual salary through the end of June in exchange for serving as a consultant for the district.

File photo

(Updated at 8:17 p.m. with reaction from Normandy and its interim superintendent)

In unusually strong language, a St. Louis County judge has ruled that Normandy schools are unaccredited and students who live in the district have a right to transfer to whatever area accredited school district they want to attend.

teacher with two young children
U.S. Department of Education

Wednesday on “St. Louis on the Air,” we learned about a St. Louis Science Center program that helps teens learn science, technology, engineering and math skills. Ahead of that segment, we asked listeners about memorable STEM experiments, classes and learning moments. Here’s what they told us. (Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)

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